The Best Scoring Wings in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on March 2nd, 2012

When we talk about the All-ACC First Team, conventional wisdom holds that a few things are certain. Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott are iron-clad locks. To a lesser extent, John Henson seems fairly likely to make the team as well. That leaves two guard spots. On some level, it seems insane that Kendall Marshall‘s probable third place finish in the conference books for the single-season assist record, but his lack of dominant scoring, defense, and a general unwillingness to place so many Tar Heels on the first team probably hurts Marshall’s chances. The worst thing about this is that the negatives against Marshall probably hurt most of the other point guards in the league as well. As good as Lorenzo Brown has been, if Marshall isn’t going to make the first team, Brown’s chances aren’t looking so great either. For now, let’s set aside true point guards.

How Many of This UNC Trio Will End up as ACC First Teamers? (News-Record)

So, for better or worse, the two guard spots on this team are probably going to go to a pair of dominant wing scorers. Among the candidates, listed in order by points per game, we have Terrell Stoglin, Harrison Barnes, C.J. Harris, Travis McKie, Erick Green, Austin Rivers, Michael Snaer, and Seth Curry. So how do we pick two? These are individual awards, so I don’t feel particularly obligated to award team success, though I know that typically the voters for these honors use that criterion rather heavily. For now though, let’s pretend that Stoglin, Harris, McKie, and Green all have an equal shot.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 2nd, 2012

  1. Washington Post: This isn’t related to Mark Gianatto’s article, but last night was not a good night for commonwealth basketball. The Virginia Cavaliers started the evening, opening up a solid lead in the second half over Florida State. A win over the Seminoles behind a man’s man performance out of Mike Scott would have worked wonders for a weak NCAA tournament resume and answer Tyler Zeller’s performance against Maryland in the ACC Player of the Year race. Long story short, Virginia blew the lead by allowing a 16-2 Florida State run to close the game before losing on a three from Ian Miller with 0.8 seconds left. Fast forward to Clemson, where by some anti-miracle neither team managed to score in the last 2:45. Watching their teams lose important games while announcers plugged the Duke – North Carolina game hurts. This screenshot of Seth Greenberg from @DarrylSlater  really sums things up.

    Seth Greenberg's Face Speaks for Virginia and Virginia Tech Fans Alike.

    Moving back to the article, Gianatto looks at the silver lining from Victor Davila’s enigmatic injury: more playing time for Cadarian Raines. Raines spent most of the last couple of years sidelined with foot injuries, but he’s stepped up big for Greenberg in Davila’s absence.

  2. Oxford Public Ledger: In the March Madness spirit, here’s a Selection Sunday-style All-ACC team. Tyler Zeller, Mike Scott and John Henson own the three “automatic bids” thanks to terrific conference play. That leaves Michael Snaer, Austin Rivers and  Kendall Marshall duking it out with CJ Leslie, Terrell Stoglin, Kenny Kadji and Harrison Barnes for the other first team spots (in case you can’t tell, I favor two of the first three). That still leaves five spots on the second and third teams available, which will be earned by “bubble” players like Erick Green, Travis McKie, CJ Harris and Seth Curry to fill out the teams (for the record, I like two of those guys to make the second team).
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: He may not be an All-ACC candidate, but Justin Watts doesn’t have any regrets about his time spent in Chapel Hill. Watts sounds like a laid-back guy who is happy to make his team better without any time under the spotlight. Veteran players like Watts are crucial to a team. Bill Simmons in an article earlier this year called Watts’ role “the chemist: “He’s the last guy every starter greets during the introductions, and he’s the guy who waits at midcourt before the opening tap for one last round of “good luck” hugs and hand slaps.”
  4. If you’ve ever been curious how “Game Sim” works, John Pence wrote a mini-biography of one of the most underrated tools available (especially during the offseason: I can’t count the hours I spent matching up different teams of recent greatness and trying to make sense of the resultant box score). In addition to being a fun time-waster, Game Sim has picked an impressive 80% of ACC games this season; additionally, as more and more data is compiled, it’s getting more and more accurate against the spread. So next time you have a few minutes and want to find out how this year’s Duke team would fare against the Blue Devils’ national championship team from 2010, just hit up Game Sim.
  5. Baltimore Sun: More bad financial news out of College Park. The commission appointed to address Maryland‘s athletic department’s budgetary issues called for the university to cut six more sports (men’s tennis, men’s track and field, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s water polo and women’s acrobatics and tumbling). Kevin Anderson has some tough decisions to make. If the football team looked stronger, one might be able to make the argument that revenues should increase and temporary budget cuts would be enough. But reality sometimes hurts. Maybe in a few years things will be different.

EXTRA: Gene Wojciechowski points out that the ACC may actually be in the driver’s seat in conference realignment. Specifically, the Big Ten will not want the ACC to surround Penn State (which would happen if the conference added Rutgers and Connecticut). I’m not sure if I buy the ACC having that much influence (Jim Delaney, Mike Slive and Larry Scott seem to be running the show), but Wojciechowski definitely makes a strong case.

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ACC Game On: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 1st, 2012

March is here and the Madness isn’t far off. Last night, NC State won a close one against Miami, helping themselves in the hunt for a bid while taking a little air out of the Hurricanes’ bubble. Meanwhile, in less meaningful news, Boston College managed to win its fourth conference game defeating an increasingly confused-looking Georgia Tech team and pulling themselves into eleventh place. In Chapel Hill, Tyler Zeller closed out his Dean Smith Center career by putting up 30 points and playing some of the best basketball of his career in an ugly “platinum” uniform while Kendall Marshall handily broke the North Carolina single season assist record against a Maryland team that just couldn’t stop a relentless (though often inaccurate) Tar Heel attack.

Battle of the Second Tier

  • #19 Florida State at Virginia at 7:00 PM on ESPN2

The Seminoles are two and half games up on the Cavliers in the conference standings with only two games to go so this isn’t really a battle for third place in the conference, but it sure feels that way. The two defensive powerhouses of the ACC met once before this season in Tallahassee where the home team managed a tough one-possession win. The fact is that these tough, close losses to good teams are starting to catch up to Virginia. Outside of a win against Michigan, what else can the Cavaliers point to? Beating Miami and Drexel? Virginia is a very good team, but they don’t really have an impressive résumé. Beating ranked Florida State would help to strengthen the Wahoos position heading into the ACC tournament. Meanwhile, the Seminoles have faltered down the stretch losing their past two games, which is equal to the number of losses they had in 2012 before the skid. Barring a total collapse,  Florida State probably is already a near-lock to go dancing. It would be nice for Florida State to win this game, but the Seminoles don’t need it like the Cavaliers do. At home, I like Mike Scott to close out his time in Charlottesville with a bang.

Crouching Tigers As Hidden Dragon?

  • Virginia Tech at Clemson at 9:00 PM on ACC Network Affiliates and

Very quietly, the Clemson has reached the .500 mark in conference play. With wins against Florida State, Virginia, and Saturday’s win over NC State, the Tigers have put themselves in a very interesting position. If Clemson wins tonight against the Hokies (no guarantee since they lost their first match-up) and manages to win again against Florida State to finish out the season, Brad Brownell‘s team will be positioned to play two very winnable games in the ACC Tournament and have a shot at snagging another marquee win or two. Looking at the Clemson’s list of bad losses, the Tigers look very sketchy. Still, though it’s a long shot, I think the Tigers do have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Or at least getting tantalizingly close just in time to get shot down on Selection Sunday. In any case, this long shot is going to make tonight’s game a little awkward. Seth Greenberg knows.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 1st, 2012

Be warned: there will be a lot of ACC Player of the Year talk.

  1. Sports Illustrated: But before we get to ACC Player of the Year banter, it’s time to talk Kendall Marshall. Marshall is really hard to pin down. He’s the lynchpin in North Carolina’s offense, maximizing the efficiency of Roy Williams’ very talented machine, but he rarely scores himself. Luke Winn took a look at four crucial (but very different) point guards to analyze their turnovers. If you have ever watched a North Carolina game, it won’t surprise you 80% of Marshall’s turnovers come on “bad passes.” More surprising is that Marshall hasn’t traveled all season. Like always, Winn’s articles are worth a read.
  2. ESPN: Robbi Pickeral picked her ACC Player of the Year and Coach of the Year yesterday (a larger panel of experts picked without explanations too). Tyler Zeller is in a two-man race with Mike Scott, but Coach of the Year still has plenty of contenders. Pickeral chose Zeller and Leonard Hamilton; the experts overwhelmingly chose Zeller and picked Mike Krzyzewski by a 7-3 margin over Hamilton (Tony Bennett and Jim Larranga also received votes). I’m not sure why Pickeral makes multiple allusions to the fact that North Carolina is really talented and will split votes. It’s true that John Henson and Zeller will probably steal votes from one another, but saying that’s the only reason Scott would win is a huge disservice to the season Scott put together.
  3. In a related note,this article looks at Mike Scott’s case for Player of the Year. Zeller’s numbers appear better at a glance, but the Tar Heels have played 400 more possessions than Scott. This is the problem with comparing points or rebounds a game at face value. Scott’s 17 points and eight rebounds a game carry more weight in an offense that uses fewer possessions than Zeller’s 16 and nine. For effect, Will Ojanen falsely inflates Scott’s stats by adjusting for North Carolina’s tempo and deflates Zeller’s to Virginia’s tempo: Scott would “theoretically” average 21 points and ten rebounds a game; Zeller would average 12 and seven. In reality stats don’t scale like that, but you should also understand that Scott’s 17 points and Zeller’s 16 points are different too. The most understated part of this article is how much better Zeller is on defense.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Norm Wood profiles Scott, looking at the influence of his father. Growing up the son of a 20-year veteran taught Scott discipline, but also how to adapt to new environments. There’s no doubt both qualities were instrumental in making Scott the success he is, having gone through multiple coaches and a season-ending injury on the way to his hallmark season.
  5. Poynter and Awful Announcing: You might have heard about the media “controversy” where Shane Ryan (of Tobacco Road Blues and formerly Seth Curry Saves Duke fame) was denied a credential to the Duke – North Carolina game this weekend, even though he requested it through Grantland. Poynter does a phenomenal job following up on the details (how many credentials were issued, Richard Deitsch’s follow-up reporting and Duke’s response). Awful Announcing covers more background on Ryan including tying the current events back to what originally got Ryan noticed (his terrific rant, which in my opinion remains the best of his work even if he apologized for it later).

EXTRA: Suffice to say Virginia‘s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, joined the club of Cavalier fans not happy about the officiating in the loss to North Carolina. My favorite part is the philosophical rant on flopping and excellence.

EXTRA EXTRA: Boston College won the game for the #11 seed in the ACC Tournament against Georgia Tech 56-52 thanks to a hot start and the fortitude to just hold on as the Yellow Jackets made their run late in the second half. You can relive the game through the eyes of Eagle fans with all of its ups and downs.

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ATB: Northwestern’s Hard Knock Life, Bubble Bumps At USF & CSU, and Early Conference Tourney Action…

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. From this point forward until Selection Sunday, it’s busy season. Between all the conference tournaments and the wrangling of the power conference teams trying to peacock their way onto the right side of the bubble, there are no more quiet nights around the world of college basketball. And why should there be — after all, it’s March. Several teams across the landscape tonight helped their cases in this, the last week of the regular season, but it was one hard-luck squad that caught our eye as the most compelling storyline for what they were (once again) unable to do — win a ‘necessary’ game. Let’s jump in…

Your Watercooler Moment. Northwestern’s Tortured Souls.

Northwestern Can Never Seem To Catch A Break (Chicago Tribune/N. DiNuzzo)

There are tortured souls, and there are fans of teams that reside on the north side of Chicago. The Cubs are perhaps American sports’ longest running laugh-a-thon, but for Northwestern basketball fans, they’ve simply never even reached the status of relevance. At least the Cubs actually won the World Series in 1907 and 1908 and have made the MLB playoffs as recently as four years ago. The Wildcats? Oh-fer. In 73 years of NCAA Tournaments, Northwestern has never received an invitation to college basketball’s marquee event. Under Bill Carmody, they’ve been close — a seventh-place Big Ten finish in 2009, an eighth place finish in 2010 — but there always seemed to be a couple late season heart-breakers that sealed the Wildcats’ fate. This year has been particularly brutal, especially in winnable home games. A one-point loss to Illinois; a two-point defeat to Purdue; an overtime L to Michigan… and then tonight’s game against Ohio State. After a late 8-0 run punctuated by an Alex Marcotullio three-pointer tied the game at 73-all with 7.7 seconds left, Northwestern could taste the capstone victory it needed to finally solidify its spot on the sweet side of the bubble. Instead, OSU’s Aaron Craft immediately drove the ball upcourt to find his All-America big man, Jared Sullinger (22/18), on the right side of the lane for a relatively easy turn and punch off glass to give the Buckeyes a two-point lead. John Shurna’s half-court shot to win fell short, and Northwestern fans once again walked out of the arena with disappointment written on their faces. Of course, the season isn’t over yet, and the Wildcats will play at Iowa on Saturday to try to get to 8-10 in the Big Ten race, and there’s still the Big Ten Tournament next week. Still, beating a top 10 team like the Buckeyes would have really helped their resume, and if Carmody’s team is once again left to the NIT again on Selection Sunday, they’ll look back at this game as yet another golden opportunity missed. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XII

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 28th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….Kansas and Missouri making a play for Game of the Year. I still think you can’t top the North Carolina/Duke game, but for momentum swings and quality, Saturday’s game in Lawrence was right up there. I don’t know if I’m more impressed with how well Missouri played in a ridiculously hostile environment, or that Kansas found a way to win after getting down big. Either way, I think I like both teams’ Final Four prospects better after that one.

I LOVED….Pat Knight’s rant. No, it probably wasn’t the best choice of words or the most thought-out statement. But you have to love when coaches just say what’s on their mind and don’t give the usual coach-speak BS. Fans love getting an unfiltered view, and Pat did his dad proud with that sound-off.

I LOVED….trying to figure out what UConn can even do to make the NCAA Tournament. They’re 17-11 and 7-9 in the Big East, with games against Providence and Pittsburgh left. They’ve beaten Florida State, Harvard, St. John’s and Notre Dame as far as OK wins go. Outside of winning the Big East Tourney, obviously (which started last season’s title run), I’d say Jim Calhoun’s underachieving group has to win out and win two games in MSG – maybe three. Any guesses?

I LOVED….wondering if Georgetown has found its happy place. I seriously haven’t thought about the Hoyas for more than five seconds all year, and it usually consists of – “Is it February yet? OK, they’re finished.” But here they are with just six losses and in the Top 10 as we get set to enter into March. Perhaps GU has lowered our late-season expectations so much that they’ve finally stopped pressing?

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Tyler Zeller and Mason Plumlee Named Academic All-Americans

Posted by mpatton on February 23rd, 2012

Tyler Zeller and Mason Plumlee make up the front line of the NCAA Academic All-American team with Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, St. Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova, and Wofford’s Brad Loesing. This is Zeller’s second straight year being honored for his efforts in the classroom, and he was selected as the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America of the Year. Zeller is the ACC’s first back-to-back Academic All-American since Duke’s Shane Battier was selected in 2000 and 2001.

Tyler Zeller named Academic All America of the Year.

Zeller is majoring in business administration with a 3.62 GPA. On the court he is one of the favorites for conference player of the year thanks to his 15.6 points a game and 9.4 rebounds a game. Plumlee is double-majoring in psychology and cultural anthropology and he iss nearly putting up a double-double this season with 11.2 points and 9.7 boards per contest this season.

The two will face off March 3 in Durham in the final game of regular season ACC play.

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Should Meyers Leonard Go Pro After This Season?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 16th, 2012

Uncertainty looms over Assembly Hall in Champaign nowadays as the Fighting Illini lost another game to Purdue on Wednesday night, their seventh loss out of eight games. Will the Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas get rid of Bruce Weber?  Will the Illini make the NCAA tournament?  These are legitimate questions on the minds of the Illini faithful but the biggest question is about their star center, Meyers Leonard’s future: will he come back for his junior season in Champaign? Let’s examine a few non-personal factors that might drive the sophomore’s decision regarding the NBA.

Leonard Has A Tough Decision To Make At The End Of The Season

Why should he leave for the NBA 

  1. You can’t teach 7’1″.” – NBA scouts love to use that cliché. Leonard has all the physical tools to play the center position at the next level. He has shown that he can add muscle over the off-season (added 30 lbs) and certainly has the intensity to hang with the big guys on a nightly basis in the NBA. Averaging eight boards per game isn’t too shabby in the Big Ten, which is known for the physical brand of play. Defensively, he has been a highlight reel during the season as he has swatted balls into the second row of the sidelines, including a game-winning block against Northwestern on the road. Most of the NBA draft boards, such as have him slated as a potential lottery pick. The scouts will waste no time trying to convince him about going pro after the college season because they might have seen enough for somebody with his physical build. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he has reached his ceiling in the college game, or maybe he did under the current coach.
  2. Bruce Weber will coach Illinois in 2013 – Bruce Weber is not a bad coach because he understands the talented sophomore and his significance to the Illini offense. Even though Leonard could improve on his scoring average from this season of 13.2 points per game, he might have hit the ceiling in Weber’s system. True centers that have the skills to play with the back to their basket don’t shine under Weber’s offensive philosophy. The motion offense under Weber has been designed around guards who can shoot the deep ball. Illinois has been at the bottom of the league for years in terms of free throws per game (only 32.5% in 2012) because most of the offensive plays revolve around screens for the shooters rather than an attacking brand of basketball.  During their recent losing skid, Weber tries to commit to the big man over the first few minutes of the game but during the late minutes, most of the shots end up being away from the paint. Historically, centers that prefer to play in the post such as Shaun Pruitt have been frustrated in Weber’s system. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale rarely played with their backs to the basket or in the paint because they relied heavily upon the 15-footer from the baseline coming off the pick-and-roll plays. Leonard’s offensive game is more than a baseline jumper or a post move – he is a monster when he attacks the hoop off the picks but Weber has not and will not be able to utilize him better next season unless he adjusts his system. If Leonard comes back for a third year with an improved game, the skills need to be utilized efficiently by the coach otherwise his draft stock won’t improve after another year in college.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.15.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a national affair tonight, as two big games take place about 3,000 miles away, from Miami to San Diego. You’ll get to watch the Tar Heels play on the road against a hungry opponent and two of the top Mountain West teams line up looking to continue the streak of great games taking place in that conference race. Here’s the breakdown:

#7 North Carolina at Miami- 8:00 PM ET on ESPN (****)

Tyler Zeller is Running Full Speed Ahead as ACC Player of the Week Heading into Tonight (AP Photo/G. Broome)

  • If it wasn’t for the final four-minute collapse against Duke last week, this Tar Heels team would be rolling right now and in position to shoot for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish. Instead, they dropped that game at home and need to build momentum back up, as well as their overall profile. Many mock brackets have Carolina on the 3-line this week. A road win here at surging Miami will not be easy, but the Tar Heels should be able to get it done if they stick to their guns offensively. Both teams have big front lines that will match up one-on-one, but UNC has the better playmakers. Tyler Zeller has been awesome lately and should be able to use his agility against the thicker Reggie Johnson inside. If he draws Kenny Kadji, he will look to use his experienced post moves against the jumpy shot-blocker. Carolina has the size advantage on the wings and will need Reggie Bullock to step up offensively to take advantage. Harrison Barnes will be monitored closely by the U’s top wing defender Durand Scott, so watch how aggressive Barnes chooses to be. Defensively, UNC needs to stay out of foul trouble against an aggressive though not very efficient Miami attack.
  • A win tonight would all but lock up Miami’s status as an at-large entry to the NCAA Tournament, as they have a questionable overall profile but are certainly on the rise. To get this win, the Hurricanes need to play strong on the defensive end. They have the athletes in Kenny Kadji (1.8 BPG), Reggie Johnson (1.1 BPG), and Durand Scott (6’5” guard, 1.1 SPG) to make plays on that end. Freshman guard Shane Larkin averages 1.8 steals per night and will look to bother Kendall Marshall on the perimeter all night. On their own end, Miami has a balanced attack but must use better shot selection. They have four players in double-digit scoring but rank just sixth in the conference in offensive efficiency and seventh in field goal percentage. Making shots is their ticket to a serious shot at victory tonight.
  • UNC is a five-point favorite tonight, but Miami has the goods to take this upset if they can make shots on their home floor. A rocking crowd tonight would be a huge boost. I think Carolina presents too many problems on both ends of the floor and will walk away with a win tonight, though it should be tight.
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ACC Game On: 2.15.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 15th, 2012

Winning on the road in the ACC will always be difficult as Virginia discovered at Clemson last night. It’s tempting to paint this win as a big upset and while it’s certainly a meaningful win for the Tigers, let’s not forget that Clemson was favored heading into the match-up. It’s a good win, but not particularly surprising. So in that same vein, tonight, we have two tough road tests on the schedule.

The Headliners

  • #7 North Carolina at Miami at 8:00 PM on ESPN

Miami, with the big win against Duke and solid in-conference performance, has played its way onto the bubble. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes are still very much a marginal team when it comes to the Big Dance. Miami needs to either win tonight against North Carolina or beat Florida State in the rematch of last weekend’s game, and probably needs to do both to warrant serious tournament consideration. Beating North Carolina is a tall order, but the results of the teams’ last meeting offers some encouragement for the Hurricanes. The 17-point win in the ACC conference opener happened before the integration of Shane Larkin into the Miami starting line up and before North Carolina’s loss of Dexter Strickland. Miami now starts an ultra-quick three guard line-up that includes Larkin, who managed six steals in 24 minutes last meeting, while North Carolina now lacks a speedy perimeter defender. Duke exposed North Carolina’s susceptibility to a well-timed three-point barrage and Miami is better positioned to exploit that than ever. Also worth mentioning is the stellar job that the Hurricanes did in limiting the effectiveness of Harrison Barnes who went 2-of-12 in the previous face-off. Miami has these advantages and the homecourt and have a real chance at upsetting the Tar Heels. Yet, when push comes to shove, North Carolina still has the clear edge. What the Tar Heels lack in perimeter speed they make up for with size and length. While the duo of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji has been tough to defend, Tyler Zeller and John Henson match up well. Henson can be effective against Kadji’s inside-out game and Zeller has the offensive savvy to get Johnson into foul trouble early.

The Opening Act

  • Georgia Tech at Wake Forest at 7:30 PM on

If Boston College didn’t exist, these two teams would each only have a single conference win. Still, one of these teams will leave this game the winner and despite Wake Forest’s home court advantage, I think Georgia Tech has the edge in this game because of their superior rebounding. Wake Forest can offset most of their disadvantages through a big night from Travis McKie and C.J. Harris, but even then, it’s not clear if the Demon Deacons can get enough significant contributions from the rest of the team to walk away with the win. In any case, this game should be closely contested even if aesthetically unpleasant.

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